On Friday, March 7, two announcements were made that impact the Southern California car culture and, to some extent, the global auto industry.
Jaguar and Land Rover Likely Will Move to Jag’s Old HQ in Mahwah
Volvo Cars of North America Returns to Rockleigh Headquarters
The first was that Volvo Cars of North America is returning to its former headquarters in Rockleigh, New Jersey at the foot of the Tappan Zee Bridge. Beautiful location and much closer to Sweden, but we can’t help but wonder how the Volvo mindset in the USA will change with a New Jersey perspective rather than one from California? But, this does make sense.
In due time, Jaguar and Land Rover locations will very likely move from Irvine, California back to Jaguar’s old HQ in Mahway, New Jersey. One veteran Land Rover manager quipped, “Well, I’ve worked for Land Rover through four owners. One more (Tata) won’t be too much different.”
This means that Ford’s Premier Automotive Group headquarters building in Irvine will be pretty empty except for some Ford regional and PR offices. This is also where Ford has some advanced design activities.
Chrysler Pacifica to Shut Down, Operations Relocated to Auburn Hills
The second announcement was that Chrysler is closing its Chrysler Pacifica operation in Carlsbad. Used as an advanced concept design center and monitoring operation, several Chrysler show cars were designed at Chrysler Pacifica and in the heyday, were fabricated by Metalcrafters in Fountain Valley. Here is Chrysler’s blurb on the demise of Pacifica: “Increasingly, we are leveraging resources worldwide, forming new joint ventures and alliances and consolidating operations in order to better achieve global balance and manage fixed costs. These moves are designed to help Chrysler become a more globally focused manufacturer, with design, engineering, sourcing and a local presence to serve local customers.
As such, we are closing the Pacifica Advance Product Design Center, consolidating the Advance Design function in Auburn Hills. Advance Design remains an integral part of our future design efforts, led by Trevor Creed, Senior Vice President — Design.
These changes set the stage for Chrysler’s future global growth efforts, which also include our intent to establish global expertise in design, engineering and sourcing through centers of excellence. These actions will help the Company meet its long-term globalization goals.”
Expect Many Staffers to Refuse to Move – Nissan’s Experience
Volvo, Chcysler Pacifica and soon Jaguar Land Rover will lose valuable and experienced staff who will refuse to relocate out of Southern California. This is what happened when Nissan North America moved from Gardena to Nashville, Tennessee in 2006. Less than 30% of their folks went with them and it has been turmoil ever sense.
All of these operations (with the exception of Nissan North America which was “born” in Southern California) moved to Southern California to be part of the most trend-setting area in the USA and arguably the tip of the spear in advanced automotive design in the world. In the case of PAG, it can be argued that staffers spent too much time at their desks to really benefit from being here. But designers need to breathe the air and see the colors and vibrancy of the area. Viewing the world as a designer in Detroit is, simply, different.
Chrysler LLC today announced a wave of manufacturing actions to reduce capacity and headcount. They also announced that four products would be cancelled from the Chrysler lineup and that two new products and two hybrids would be introduced.
Three More Products Announced for Cancellation – Two Added
Perhaps the most significant drop is of the Dodge Magnum. This distinctively styled wagon has always been a favorite of mine, but as a “wagon” it has not resonated well with the buying public. When the Charger 4-door sedan was added to the Dodge lineup, Magnum was relegated to the list of forgotten models at the Dodge store. There is probably not a cooler looking vehicle on the road when it is well-dressed by a tuner than the Dodge Magnum.
Chrysler also announced that it will kill the Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible, the Chrysler Pacifica
and the Chrysler Crossfire. All are low volume products that have not captured the attention of the market. While killing four products, Chrysler adds the Dodge Journey Crossover SUV and Dodge Challenger muscle car to the Dodge lineup. Seems like a very fair trade.
Next on the block we’d like to see the demise of the Jeep Commander and Jeep Compass – both products Jeep does not need. While Commander has Jeep DNA, Compass does not and Jeep should keep pure to its Trail-Rated DNA. Commander should be on the block because it is UGLY. Aspen, Dakota and Durango could also be up for consideration to drop.
More Headcount Reductions
In addition to cancelling products, Chrysler will eliminate shifts at several plants to bring capacity in line with demand (market shrinkage from 17.2 million units to around 16.2 million units). This will reduce hourly headcount by another 8,500 to 10,000 workers. Salaried headcount is to be reduced by another 1,000 staffers. These reductions are in addition to a 13,000 job reduction previously announced by Chrysler.
Read Chrysler’s November 1 Press Release below the fold
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In this case, the Enclave is not really a country lying within the boundaries of the Buick, but the company’s preview of a vehicle to replace the Rendezvous crossover SUV (and Rainier?). Buick’s replacement for the Rendezvous moves to a new platform (the Lambda platform) and will carry the new Enclave name. The choice of “Enclave” demontrates how tough it is for any car company to identify catchy names for its vehicles.
The Enclave is due in early 2007 as a 2008 model-year vehicle and was shown at GM’s first press conference at the 2006 North American International Auto Show in January. VehicleVoice and AutoPacific correspondents were there to get the scoop. And while getting the scoop several agreed that the Enclave may, indeed, be the first Buick they would actually consider and that this Buick may actually appeal to other than geriatric buyers.
2006 Concept: The New Vision of Buick Style
The 2006 Enclave concept closely previews the vehicle, though it still offers a significant amount of concept eyewash. Unless there is too much confusion and laughter, Enclave is the name the product is due to wear in production. The Enclave concept focuses on furthering Buick’s luxury position, with a highly sculpted and detailed design. Buick describes the Enclave name as evoking images of style, luxury, and the privacy of a quiet, protected space. The style and luxury association with the word Enclave seems a bit of a stretch when compared with the definition of the word, but the Buick concept does succeed with demonstrating images of style and luxury.
While the concept of the Enclave may be suspiciously similar to the Chrysler Pacifica, the Enclave styling is much more upscale and serious looking. Additionally, there is likely little risk that Enclave will be confused with a Minivan or station wagon.
The interpretation of the Buick grille is nicely proportioned to the rest of the nose, and moving the portholes from the fender to the hood gives them the appearance of being functional, whether they are or not. The chrome accents are nicely done and not overdone. Among the styling elements that are more concept than production is the way the front and rear fascias completely hug the twenty-one-inch wheels. More bumper would be needed for production, and it is unlikely twenty-one-inch wheels would be offered. The jewel-like headlights incorporate GM’s version of cornering headlights, and those will be included on the production car.
Note: All Enclaves will have portholes (Cadillac calls them “gills”). Six-cylinder vehicles will have three portholes per side while eight-cylinder vehicles will have four per side.
We at VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.com) and the VehicleVoice Blog-o-Rama (http:/.vehiclevoice.com) often feel that we are fighting an uphill battle concerning the use of the word “Crossovers”. This is a term that has come to mean SUVs based on car platforms and mechanicals. That’s fine. However, it is industry jargon that has not been adopted by the public. The media, picking up on industry jargon is forcing the term where no-one needs it.
An SUV is an SUV or Its NOT
Based on our research, it’s simple. American vehicle buyers have categorized vehicles into several basic categories: cars and trucks further subdivided into luxury cars, mid-size cars, economy/compact cars, sports/sporty cars, pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles (SUVs) and vans/minivans.
The SUV category seems to be giving folks the most trouble. To a typical vehicle-buyer, an SUV is an SUV is an SUV. There are big ones and small ones, but an SUV is an SUV. Muddying the playing field, however, is the notion of a “crossover”. A Traditional SUV in this more complicated world is a truck-based SUV like Ford Explorer or Toyota Sequoia. A crossover SUV is an SUV based on a car platform, a “unit-body” platform. But people often forget that the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Jeep Liberty, Mitsubishi Montero are all based on unit-body platforms but are not car-based. Does this make them a crossover? NO!
Chevrolet Trailblazer… a “real” Truck-Based SUV
Post-Modern SUV… Soft Roader… NOT Crossover
So, it’s pretty muddy. What crossovers need to be are at-a-glance SUVs. The basics of the SUV equation are well known so deviating is a risk. An SUV must have a basic two box bodystyle, relatively tall glass for good visibility, a relatively upright windshield that provides a stiff A-Pillar allowing easy ingress/egress, and a command seating position. At the same time interior roominess and the ability to carry cargo is very important. From our perspective, this most American of vehicle types is very easy to understand but easy for a foreign car company to get wrong.
Pontiac Torrent… Car-Based Post-Modern (Crossover) SUV
Let’s read on about how USA Today recently reacted to the issue of “crossovers”…
VehicleVoice (http://www.vehiclevoice.comhttp://www.autopacific.com) pay close attention to the the dynamics in one of the largest and most dynamic product segments in the North American auto market – the Premium Mid-Size SUV market. This VehicleVoice blog (http:/.vehiclevoice.com) delves into the dynamics between Traditional SUVs and Post-Modern SUV entries.
Are Traditional SUVs Based on Trucks on Their Way Out?
Some say traditional SUVs are on their way out, but their implied death is exaggerated at best or at worst will come only after a lengthy illness that has just begun to take root. That the playing field is changing there is no doubt, but traditional SUV entries will be an important part of the mix well into the next decade, despite the amount of chatter that Post Modern SUVs (some refer to them as crossovers) are generating and the speculation that the product configuration will take over the world. Though segmentation is subjective and a constantly moving target, but a close look at the Premium Mid-Size SUV segment as currently defined indicates that it is not quite time to write off traditional SUVs.
Ford Explorer Versus Toyota Highlander: Which is the Way of the Future?
Riding with the spousette the other day, we were cruising in the blindspot of a Chrysler Pacifica. Even though the Pacifica has been on the road for a few years now, and AutoPacific has had a Pacifica in several research projects, it had never really registered with her.
She asked, “What’s that?” I said, “Well, that’s a Chrysler Pacifica.” “Poor thing,” she responded, “It doesn’t know what it wants to be. It looks like a station wagon, a minivan and maybe a little like an SUV.” “Well, Chrysler used to call it a Sports Tourer
, but now they are trying to call it an SUV,” I observed. Showing her ability to cut to the chase, “Nice try, but it doesn’t appear to be anything special.”
These observations are not too much different from reactions to the Pacifica in research clinics, focus groups and individual interviews with consumers. Even Pacifica owners seem confused about what it is. That Chrysler has been able to sell a respectable number of them (many at a deep discount from its initial pricing) is a testament to Chrysler’s marketing and incentive programs.
Over the years, we have found that American consumers really want a product that they can quickly put into a category. Either it is a minivan or not. Either it is an SUV or not. Begs the question of what folks will think the Mercedes-Benz R-Class Grand Sports Tourer